Mariners Continue Pissing Off Tigers, Lose To White Sox

Alexei Ramirez shields a baseball from the bitter chill of the wind

As we've alluded to on a few occasions here before, the Detroit Tigers were supposed to just waltz to the playoffs in 2012. They could literally waltz, just do everything while waltzing, and the expectation was that they'd have little trouble claiming the AL Central title. I might be exaggerating, or it's possible that the people I'm talking about were exaggerating, but of all the divisions before the year, it was the AL Central that appeared to have the easiest winner to pick. It was going to be the Tigers by a large handful, and then somebody else decent and inferior. With Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Justin Verlander, and other dudes, how could they go wrong?

I don't know what the Chicago White Sox were supposed to do, because I've never really paid that much attention to the White Sox, but I know the White Sox are in the AL Central and I know the Tigers were supposed to win the AL Central easily, so it stands to reason that the White Sox were supposed to have their struggles. I'm guessing they were looking at a win total in the low-70s, and maybe a .500 record if some things broke right. Wasn't it just a year ago that the White Sox were rebuilding? Rebuilding takes more than a year.

Anyhow, that's how things were supposed to go, more or less. And there are other teams in the Central but whatever. At this writing, on the first day of June, the Tigers are six games out of first place. And four games under .500, to boot. And sitting in first place are the White Sox, at 30-22 and winners of nine in a row. There are a few reasons why the Tigers are way down below while the White Sox are catching the rooftop rays, but one notes that, against the Tigers, the Mariners have gone 5-1. Their one loss was a somewhat valiant effort against Verlander. Meanwhile, against the White Sox, the Mariners have now gone 0-4. They were swept in April - right before they swept the Tigers - and they lost it late Friday night.

Take those games away and the White Sox are still ahead of the Tigers, but instead of being ahead of the Tigers by six games, they'd be ahead of the Tigers by two games. A six-game gap is somewhat daunting. A two-game gap is something that can disappear in a weekend. One cannot deny the Mariners' part in shaping the look of the AL Central division.

Then you also have the Mariners going 1-4 against the Cleveland Indians, who are in between the White Sox and the Tigers. It's like the Mariners have it out for the Tigers for some reason, possibly because they want Doug Fister back. I don't know how being mean to the Tigers might allow that to happen but emotions and competition can make people irrational.

I wonder if the Tigers are going to get suspicious after the manner in which the Mariners lost to the White Sox tonight. Felix Hernandez surrendered three home runs, and while the Mariners did battle all the way back, the eventual winning run reached base in the bottom of the eighth when a would-be fly out hit Michael Saunders in the face. It was a routine fly by Paul Konerko, and Saunders tracked it, and then, boom, face. Instead of leading off with an out, Konerko made it into scoring position. They must teach you at some level of organized baseball how to properly throw a game. How to make it look like it's just all happening naturally. The worst way to throw a game would be to just not do anything. As a defender, maybe just look at the ball until the batter runs all the way around. The second-worst way to throw a game would be to let a critical fly ball hit off of your face. No normal outfielder lets a fly ball hit him in the face.

Brendan Ryan had the right idea - when he charged in to field Alexei Ramirez's game-winning infield single, he picked up the ball and double-pumped, like he couldn't get a good grip. That looked like a natural break for the White Sox. The Konerko fly looked like an unnatural break. We'll see if the Tigers file a formal protest because something weird is up, and the Mariners are right in the thick of it.

I don't know what all of the above means because I am hopelessly delirious. A vacation has a definite, abrupt physical ending, but it takes a while for the brain to re-adjust and it's been a long day. I'm not back to normal writing mode yet, and as Matthew and I were talking about this morning, even if I were, I don't have a good grasp of context because I was off the grid for seven days. So much of writing about baseball is based on recent events in baseball. I'm still catching up on recent events in baseball. For example, I could say a few things about Felix's outing tonight, but I didn't watch Felix's last outing against the Angels, so I don't know if he's still struggling, or if he's back to struggling, or what. For me, this was practically like another season opener, but it wasn't for you, so you're more equipped to talk about current trends than I am.

Basically, I'm here, but I'm not all here yet. Be patient, and express some gratitude to Matthew for his phenomenal and informative work in my absence. This is not always an easy team to write about and while I'm sad I missed the drubbing of the Rangers, I am so thankful I didn't have to watch the Mariners and the Angels. The Angels are like a version of the White Sox the Mariners have to play 19 times every season.

On tonight, just a few things. Saunders' error on Konerko's fly ball was, obviously, a crucial misplay. In win expectancy terms, the Mariners would've been around 43% with an out, but wound up around 26% with Konerko on second. It was a 17.5% swing. But as always, there's a difference between saying "that was a big play" and "that play cost the Mariners the game," and the Mariners didn't just lose because Michael Saunders allowed a catchable baseball to hit him in the face. There were other things, before that and after that. Not that that'd make Saunders feel any better about his evening. What makes this even worse than your standard ugly error is that Saunders will be wearing the mark of the baseball for at least a good week. Every time he wakes up and looks in the mirror, he'll be reminded, oh right, I'm stupid, I'm so stupid, look at my face, I let that happen to my face. Maybe it's a little consolation that, earlier on, Saunders made a diving catch and doubled up a runner at first. And in the ninth, Saunders nearly homered to dead center. If there are any players out there who are okay with hitting almost-home runs, then the Mariners are the team for them.

Felix was not what I would've liked him to be. Neither of Gordon Beckham's home runs were impressive, but both were well-struck line drives that would've gone for doubles in a lot of other ballparks. Adam Dunn's home run was impressive, as Adam Dunn home runs usually are. The Beckham homers came on fastballs that were supposed to end up far away from where they ended up. Dunn's home run came on a disaster of a change. With three homers and four walks, Felix said afterward that he wasn't pleased with his fastball location, and that he's going to go to the video, which I'm given to understand isn't something that he normally does. Felix also tweaked his back tonight and insisted that wasn't one of his problems, but of course it's not like a tweaked back would do him any favors. You can probably chalk some of this up to Felix's back. Not all of it, though, and now Felix has a rut to work himself out of. I will never understand how a rut and a groove are synonyms and antonyms.

Stephen Pryor didn't pitch, which is too bad, because I would've liked to see him pitch. Not for any particular reason, really. I'm just all about things that are different, and in the short term, Pryor will be a new experience. Then he'll become a familiar experience, then we'll take his positives for granted, then we'll get excited about some other guy in the minors. Stephen Pryor is still interesting, and because he didn't debut tonight, the time at which he will cease to be interesting has been pushed back a day.

Brandon League was demoted from the closer role so he can work on some things in middle relief. Tonight he threw 16 pitches, and just seven of them were fastballs. He faced five batters, and started three of them off with splitters. League usually doesn't like to throw a lot of first-pitch splitters so we'll see if this becomes a thing. There's no denying how good League's splitter can be, and there's no denying how predictable League's splitter usage can be. Any effort toward less predictability is effort I welcome.

Johan Santana threw a no-hitter tonight in which he allowed a legitimate hit that was for whatever reason called foul. So for the rest of time, the New York Mets' first-ever no-hitter will be the no-hitter that really wasn't. The Mariners' first hit against Jake Peavy led off the fifth, and it was a pop-up in front of the plate off the bat of Justin Smoak that A.J. Pierzynski lost at the last moment. That was the Mariners' only hit until the seventh. For a time, it looked like the Mets would luck into a no-hitter, and the White Sox would luck out of one.

Kyle Seager didn't only go deep - he went deep after having fallen behind 0-and-2. He worked into a full count and drove a high-inside slider out to right-center field. It takes some quick hands to drive this pitch for a 400+ foot homer:

Seagerpeavy_medium

You already knew that Kyle Seager had quick hands, as evidenced by his .806 OPS, so I guess here is some superfluous evidence. Does Kyle Seager have the quickest hands in the West? No, he probably doesn't, that would be extraordinary. But he does have very quick hands for a baseball player and tonight he turned that into four bases. Plus another base when he singled. Kyle Seager is not superstar-good, but on this team, it can sure feel that way sometimes.

More Mariners baseball tomorrow! Heck yes! Watch it, if you like! Who wouldn't want to watch Hector Noesi in a bandbox one start after he struck out zero batters? I'm raising the hairs on my neck in eager anticipation.

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